Consumer Watchdog

Secret shopper survey finds retailers failing to inform consumers

New report finds more information should be available to shoppers purchasing gas and electric stoves.

MASSPIRG's Deirdre Cummings with Mother's Out Front Laura Davis, demonstrating an induction cooktop at the release of the first retail survey at the Robbins Library in Arlington.

Despite mounting scientific evidence linking gas stove pollution to childhood asthma and known carcinogens, many sales associates at the country’s top retailers dismissed or downplayed concerns about this pollution during a recent “secret shopper” survey.

Employees at Lowe’s, Home Depot and Best Buy were documented — for the second year in a row — failing to warn customers about the potential risks of cooking with gas, according to our new survey. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund dispatched survey takers to 62 locations across 11 states to better understand what information consumers are getting at the point of sale.

Our survey found:

  • About 76% of surveyed sales associates at the nation’s top appliance stores flatly denied or expressed ignorance about the health risks of gas stoves.
  • Only one in five staff surveyed on the sales floors at Home Depot, Lowe’s and Best Buy locations had accurate information about the dangers of gas stove pollution.
  • Fifteen percent of sales staff recommended gas stoves over electric ranges or induction cooktops, even when the secret shopper voiced concerns about pollution.

Retail giants have a responsibility to provide customers with the facts about the products they sell, including the health dangers associated with gas stove pollution and steps they can take to protect themselves and their loved ones. Our surveys have repeatedly shown that’s not happening.

Without guidance at the point of sale, customers are too often unaware of the risks and preventative steps they can take.

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